Reuters: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned on Tuesday that sanctions against North Korea and Iran could increase tensions over their nuclear ambitions, but said he hoped Tehran would heed international concerns. By David Schlesinger and Brian Rhoads
BEIJING, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned on Tuesday that sanctions against North Korea and Iran could increase tensions over their nuclear ambitions, but said he hoped Tehran would heed international concerns.
Speaking to Reuters and a small group of foreign media, Wen said China stood by its pleas for diplomatic settlement to the two nuclear standoffs that have thrown a spotlight on Beijing’s emerging but often awkward international role.
“Resolving the two nuclear issues requires committed diplomatic efforts,” Wen said.
“But imposing sanctions will not necessarily get us there, and may even prove counter-productive. The parties involved should be cautious about moving towards sanctions.”
China has backed separate U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning North Korea’s test-firing of missiles in July and demanding that Tehran halt uranium enrichment.
But Beijing has deflected calls from Washington for sanctions against the two states, seeking instead to weave between U.S. pressure and China’s own energy and security interests.
Iran failed to heed an Aug. 31 deadline set by the Security Council to halt enrichment, a process which can be used to make fuel for power stations or material for warheads.
The United States said on Friday it was talking to European powers about possible sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but the European Union has signalled it wants more dialogue.
Wen urged Iran to avoid deeper confrontation.
“We also hope Iran will heed the concerns of the international community and take constructive steps,” he said.
China, staunchly defensive of its own sovereignty, generally opposes sanctions against other states and has deepening economic bonds with Iran.
In the first seven months of 2006, energy-famished China imported 9.7 million tons of crude oil from Iran — 11.6 percent of its total crude intake and a 10.4 percent rise on the same time last year.
Wen also urged intensified diplomacy to defuse confrontation over North Korea — its neighbour and long-time Communist ally — but he did not single out Pyongyang with any specific message.
North Korea alarmed the United States and Japan by test-firing missiles in July, and has refused to return to six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programme.
Those talks, which which have been hosted by China and also bring together the United States, North and South Korea, Japan and Russia, have been dormant since November.
“Given the sensitivity of the situation on the Korean peninsula, all the parties concerned should be cool-headed and exercise constraint, refrain from making statements or taking moves that will escalate tension,” he said, calling for an early restart to the talks.
The chief U.S. envoy to the six-party talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to discuss how to induce North Korea back to negotiations.